Life is always better when Massachusetts members of Congress are in the leadership, and no one since the days of Ted Kennedy and Tip O’Neill has done more for Massachusetts with less fanfare than US Representative Richie Neal.
Now, with Democratic control of the House of Representatives, as chairman of the powerful Committee on Ways and Means, he is positioned to do much more. Even when in the minority, Neal has consistently delivered for his district and Massachusetts.
From the Berkshires to Barnstable, he has been an effective advocate for federal policies and spending for key industries central to our statewide economic well-being: health care, research and development, financial services, and higher education. And if there’s a $2 trillion infrastructure bill in our future, it goes through Ways and Means, which could be a game changer for Massachusetts.
Yes, the congressman raises a lot of money. However, taking back the House required raising a lot of money. Representative Neal’s campaign donated $500,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in the 2017-2018 cycle, as well as making direct donations totaling close to $700,000 from the campaign account to almost 200 individual campaigns, including every member of the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses, respectively. Having contributed directly to nearly every red-to-blue campaign in the last cycle, Neal has already given $250,000 to the DCCC in 2019 to help the party keep control.
I know a little bit about fund-raising. I’ve done my fair share for politicians. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have proudly supported the congressman with donations over the years. In the process of asking for contributions for worthy causes, one has to host events — lots of them.
And donors expect a certain level of hospitality when they are being asked to contribute (at least I do), so Representative Neal, in addition to adhering to the spirit and letter of the law, has complied with customary practices as well. Serious money was needed to flip the House in 2018, and it will be required to maintain a Democratic majority in 2020.
Last year, Neal was part of a team effort, along with his colleagues, Representatives Jim McGovern, Katherine Clark, and Joe Kennedy, in asking some of their friends (I was among them) to help raise money for the Massachusetts Majority PAC and the Commonwealth Majority PAC. They targeted 37 districts across the country in an effort to end Republican control of the House and bring back the notion of checks and balances.
Thanks to their efforts, along with those of the national committees, Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House, Neal is chair of Ways and Means, and Jim McGovern has assumed chairmanship of Rules. Kennedy and Clark are trusted allies of Speaker Pelosi, and every member of the Massachusetts delegation has key committee assignments thanks to Richie Neal. This is good for the country, and it’s good for Massachusetts.
Elections matter, and winning the House means a great deal. Since taking the gavel of the Ways and Means Committee in January, Neal has held hearings on the impact of climate change, support of paid family leave, strengthening the protections for Americans living with preexisting conditions and cracking down on tax cheats. He has also authored legislation to protect and support American families with respect to health care, pensions, and economic well-being.
Last month he submitted a request to the IRS asking for six years of President Donald J. Trump’s personal and business tax returns.
Most Americans would agree that Social Security has been the most effective anti-poverty program in this country’s history. Republican efforts to cut and privatize Social Security are dead, at least as long as Democrats control the House. In fact, one Massachusetts congressman, raised on Social Security survivor benefits after he lost both parents, has put forward a plan to finance and stabilize Social Security for the next century.
Which one? You guessed right: The Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Richie Neal.
Jack Connors is cofounder of Boston advertising agency Hill Holliday.